The following is an excerpt from A New Heaven and a New Earth, by J. Richard Middleton.
Our third text is from Colossians 1 and comes at the conclusion of an elevated theological statement (possibly a hymnic or poetic piece) describing the role of Christ as the agent of creation and redemption (vv. 15–20). Verses 19–20 constitute the climax of this statement; they articulate God’s ultimate purpose in the incarnation.
For in him [Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through
him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in
heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. (Col. 1:19–20)
Salvation is here conceived as reconciliation or making peace between those who are at enmity, presumably by removing the source of that enmity, namely, sin. Indeed, verse 20 contains the idea of atonement through the blood of Christ; this is how reconciliation is achieved.
But in contrast to much Christian preaching, which emphasizes that the blood of Christ was shed for “me” (and we are told to put our name there), Colossians 1 does not myopically limit the efficacy of Christ’s atonement to the individual or even to humanity. Without denying that the atonement suffices for individual people, the text applies the reconciliation effected by Christ’s shed blood as comprehensively as possible, to “all things, whether on earth or in heaven.”
This wording brings us back to verse 16 (just four verses earlier), which affirms that in Christ “all things in heaven and on earth were created.” When verse 17 goes on to say that “in him all things hold together,” we are warranted in thinking that the reconciliation spoken of in verse 20 continues and brings to completion Christ’s unifying work as creator, which has been disrupted by sin.
The point is that redemption is as wide as creation; it is literally cosmic in scope.
©2014 by J. Richard Middleton. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.
For more information on A New Heaven and a New Earth, click here.